In grade school, when we had activities where we had to draw or describe our families, I only had two people to draw: my mom and me. I would finish first and get creative, including my parakeets and fire-bellied newt, but I remember feeling a sense of lacking when the other kids’ pictures were filled with people and I had to clarify that that black and red blob’s name was Scooter and he was part of my family, too. No siblings, no father — just us two ladies holding down the Millikan household.
All my life I’ve identified as an only child. So you can bet I was surprised when two months ago, I got an email from my sister. I scanned past it in my inbox at first. I get a lot of newsletters and notifications and stuff and might not have even recognized it as important with the subject “It’s about time we meet.” But I did a double take when I recognized the last name as my father’s.
I guess you know you’re really living in the Internet Age when the sister you didn’t know existed finds you on the Facebook and contacts you.
In the email, she said she felt like it was the right time to contact me and that OUR dad had always told her she should do so, but she didn’t want to do it because of someone else’s pressure. Now, at 18, about to graduate from high school, apparently the time was right. So when she was fooling around on her friend’s Facebook account one night, she decided to search my name.
It was pretty much a shocker. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in my life repressing all thoughts of the father who abandoned my mom when she was pregnant and never made the effort to come and find us. All these years, I tried to pretend that he didn’t exist. Growing up, I lied and told people he was dead or that I was a test-tube baby, which mostly with the later I just wanted to see if people were really that gullible. And I’m not a person who usually, or really ever lies about things, but I learned quickly that telling the truth about that would lead to an ambush of questions and stir up things in my mind that got harder and harder to push back down.
And now, a direct reminder of him was EMAILING me, wanting to get to know me, and saying we should meet each other in New York. After the shock wore down, I was pretty indignant about it. Who was she, and why was it HER choice to get to know me when she felt like it, when I never got a choice about anything relating to that situation? I was planning to just let her wonder and not respond. But then I realized that she was an innocent in this situation just as much as me. We can’t help the situations into which we’re born, and it wasn’t her fault that our dad decided to make my life harder that it might have been.
So I emailed her back. It was short and sweet, and I tried to remain distant and unemotional, but her reply was so full of hope and bubbly enthusiasm that it made me think it could be kind of cool to have a little sister. I was still skeptical though, and didn’t email her back. She gave me her MSN name and I added it to my list but, I had no intention of chatting her up.
And do you know what the little cyber stalker did??? She guessed my screen name from my email address and messaged me when I didn’t even realize I was online! Pretty much then I knew she was for sure related to me. We both have the INTERNETS GENE!! So we talked, and we got to know each other a bit online. We exchanged pictures, and she looks eerily similar to me. It’s especially eerie, because I’ve never met anyone who looks even remotely similar to me. I never get mistaken for other people — I get picked out of crowds. But here is this mini me, chatting me across the Interwebs. And she’s cool, and smart. She’s going to med school in the fall. She says “lol” a lot online, except she adds extra ‘o’s for emphasis, which I think is a tad ridiculous. Ok, so having a sister is pretty awesome.
But then about a week later, I got an email from my father. He was walking by the computer when my sister was looking at my pictures and chatting with me. So he got my email address from her, and wrote to me.
And then I turned off my Adium for a while, and let that message cycle out of my inbox. Three days went by, and I got another email from him saying, well it had been a WEEK and he hasn’t heard from me! What was wrong? Did he send it to the wrong address?? He was going to send it again just to be sure.
I let another week go by. I waited 22 years for him to write me back. Hell if I wasn’t going to keep him hanging for a while. Because when he emailed me, everything came rushing to the surface. All of the thoughts about how his absence may have affected my life. About my totally neurotic dating habits. How I can only fall for guys who are unavailable, and when they are available I run away. If they come chasing after me, I push them away as hard as I possibly can. About my utter dislike and disregard for authority, and my inability to not tell people exactly what I think no matter who they are or what power they have. But it’s not just the flaws — I sometimes wonder if the things I like most about myself should be attributed to his absence as well: My independence, my resilience, my fearlessness, my unrelenting need to succeed no matter what. Like maybe if I did have a father to coddle me when I was younger, I wouldn’t know how to take on the world head first and have the confidence to get anywhere, or worse, maybe I wouldn’t want to. Maybe instead of wanting to build my own empire right now, I would be focused on marrying into someone else’s.
And then finally I decided that I would let it go. I’ve been angry at that situation all my life, and where, when I was younger, I might not have been able to respond to him without letting my anger consume me, I’m an adult now, and I think it’s time to let it go and give the guy a chance. At the very least he’s contributed half of my genes, and I’m curious to find out where the similarities and differences really are. At the most, there’s the chance that this could turn into something quasi meaningful, which is better than nothing. And I know I would regret it if, having the chance, I would have lived my whole life without meeting him. You never know when it’s going to be too late.
So I wrote him back, and we’ve been corresponding. And earlier today, I booked a flight so that June 14th I’m going to Haiti to meet my dad and my sister. I would blog about it, but I heard the Internet isn’t too stable there…